Friday, September 23, 2011

Autism: Fitting in

For families with disabilities of all sorts, fitting into the local social dynamics can be quite a challenge. When your condition makes social skills hard, it's even worse. Not only do you get the judging eye of society cast at you, but responding to it is hard.

I'm sure everyone has had their day being shunned for one thing or another. Plenty of people on the spectrum who read this know exactly what I'm talking about because they've been through it themselves. And the outcasting of peers does little to help a struggling person do any better. Bullying and rejection cause increased anxiety, further psychological damage, and more stigma on both sides.

So what can you do for your kids or yourself in the face of social adversity? Maybe if you don't fit in, you can just pick up and move somewhere else? Not quite. Most people who suffer from these conditions (heck most people in general) don't have the funds to just pack up and ship out when things get tough or because they "don't fit in". The truth is, the only time you should move is when it is unsafe for you to stay or you can increase the positives of your life (new careers).

The first key to anything is education. The next is learning as much as you can about society and where you can go as possible. So, actually, that's education both ways. The worst thing you can do is seal yourself off and not go out anymore.

You have to go out and find places you can be. If your direct neighbors aren't very nice, don't hang around them. Seek out groups of people that are more like you and more accepting. These can be school groups, hobby groups, or people of various similar interests who just hang out.

You have every right to live and be where you are. With that out of the way and some ideas for groups to find, how do you fit in to basic society? Some people say you don't have to, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind. A few tips:
For either yourself or to teach your child (teaching children should start early, but it's not too late, right?)

Morals: These are rules of respect people live by and they can get complicated. Start with these simple ones:
-Keep all your body parts to yourself, minding personal space of others. Do not touch anyone without their direct permission or invitation. That includes their property like purses or other items.

-Respect the privacy of others and mind what is personal and what is not. Things that are personal that you should avoid commenting on are sexual issues, money, and a person's own conditions or appearances.

-Harm no one. Avoid fights and do your best never to hit or kick anyone. This includes self defense issues where you could walk away.

-When talking to people you don't know, address them as Sir, Ma'am (or Miss if "younger"), or by their occupation such as "officer". Speaking politely to people helps a lot.

-Respect the beliefs of others, even if you don't believe them yourself. This one can be hard and can get you into trouble with large groups of people. While you are entitled to your own opinion, you will find less stress in life if you keep it to yourself. You don't have to believe what others do either, take comfort in that.

-Respect laws and the rights of others. Don't steal, rob, or commit crimes. Stay out of drugs and alcohol. Some communities are alcohol heavy and I've seen them, but I don't drink. That has gotten me laughed at, but never cast out. I just tell them to be sure and enjoy on my behalf.

You don't have to do everything people in your community do unless there is a law or it's a matter of respect to others. Situations vary, but this is something I have found to be a truth in my wide travels.

As it is, we cannot be expected to be "normal" because we are not. Some of us are more eccentric than others, yet harmless. If you are doing something that makes you stand out in a way that could be dangerous to you (like failing to wear clothes in public) you should change that. If you just dress more colorful than others, you may be laughed at, but you should ignore them. They have no right to carry that any further.

Again, these are basic tips, nothing is perfect for everyone. What can you do?

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